Skip to content

Going Awl In


“Going all in” is a phrase
commonly used by poker players.

With a short stack of chips, the player bets them all in a somewhat desperate attempt to win the pot. In other words, he commits everything to stay in the game.

The Old Testament Hebrews lived in a time and culture when slavery and indentured servitude were commonplace. Slaves could be bought and sold. A person in financial straits could sell himself as a bond servant to pay off his debts. Today we consider this very unseemly at best, but theirs was an entirely different culture from ours. And God gave His people certain civil laws to ensure that slavery among the Jews would not be severe and cruel (Leviticus 25:43), and even included certain rights and protections for slaves and bond servants.

One situation involved a Hebrew man bought as a servant (Exodus. 21:1-6) God stipulated that such a one was to serve for six years, but be set free in the seventh. If he entered servitude with a wife and/or children, they also were to be set free. If the master had provided a wife during the six years, resulting in children, the man went free, but the wife and children remained with the owner.

However, if the man loved not only his wife and children, but his master also, and wanted to stay with them, then he could choose to give up his freedom. This contract was publicly finalized before judges and at a door(post), where the master would pierce the servant’s ear with an awl. This signified the servant’s “going all in” with his obligations and position, for he would now serve his master forever.

Surely Jesus “went all in” for us and the whole world of sinners. St. Paul explained that even though the Christ was God, He came to earth in the likeness of men, humbled Himself, and took the form of a servant. He was sold for thirty pieces of silver, and His willing obedience to His Father led Him to the cross, where with His death He redeemed and reconciled the world. No wonder Isaiah called the Messiah not just God’s Servant, but the obedient, suffering and sin-bearing Servant. This was stipulated, seen, and finalized by His lacerated head and back, and pierced hands, feet and side.

Indeed, we have been bought with a price: the Redeemer’s own precious blood. Do we demand or expect to be free of Him? After six years? Or do we love Him with such a passion that we willingly give ourselves into His service as faithful slaves forever?

Then approach your Master, who said “I AM the Door,” and willingly submit to be pierced of ear, signifying your desire and intent to “go awl in” with Him, totally and forever. Hear and remember the terms of your contract. “Give ear, O my people, . . . Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.”
(Psalm 78:1) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says . . .” (Revelation 2:7)

And forget not the gracious result. 

“Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:28) “In Him you also trusted after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” (Ephesians 1:13) “My ears You have opened. . . .  I delight to do Your will, O my God.” (Psalm 40: 6,8) “If You abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Having one’s ears pierced physically may be a fashion statement. Spiritual piercing is a confessional statement. And faithful pierced-ear servitude on earth can only result in the glorious everlasting freedom of heaven: freedom from all sin, pain, sorrow, weariness and every form of evil; freedom to serve God in perfect holiness. Truly blessed are they who go “awl in” for their Lord and Savior.

David Fuerstenau is pastor of Holy Truth Lutheran Church in Ketchikan, Alaska.